Mariah Hanson on The Power and Pride of The Dinah

“Beyond the general party theme, the Dinah actually has a very profound meaning and a significant way of touching people. It’s powerful.”

Every April, Club Skirts the Dinah is a destination for thousands of women who congregate in Palm Springs, looking to have an incredible time together in an atmosphere that is all too infrequently available. What started as a small weekend gathering in 1991 has exploded into a five-day “girl party music festival” with performances from pop stars like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Meghan Trainor as well as appearances from celesbians, YouTube personalities and other LGBTQ faves (“L Word” stars, anyone?)

The Dinah is the one place in the world internationally known for being the ultimate lesbian gathering. From its hot and sexy pool parties to the infamous night-time all-white and all-black soirees, it’s become a bucket list destination, the kind of experience every queer woman is at least curious about, and one that most make sure to invest in at least once.

And while The Dinah might be known for its sexy dancers and debaucherous opportunities, part of the appeal is the incredibly diverse crowd that attends. Women of every age, ethnicity, background from all over the world come to the desert for the kind of community that can’t be found anywhere else. That was exactly what Mariah Hanson hoped to create with The Dinah, and in its 26 years, the woman behind the largest lesbian event in the world is more ready than ever to provide a safe, positive, exciting and affirming opportunity for queer women to come together and not only enjoy but appreciate themselves, celebrating who we are.

GO talked with Hanson about this year’s Dinah (March 29-April 2 at the Hilton and Hard Rock Hotels in Palm Springs) and the continued importance of having a women-centric space available for us all.

GO: Why is supporting an event like the Dinah more important than ever?
Mariah Hanson: In a time when we are a faced with what looks like a hostile White House administration, attempting subtly to pull back our hard-won advances toward civil rights and equality, our LGBTQ bars, nightclubs, festivals and event spaces become ever more relevant and critically important. We need these spaces to come together and rejuvenate, to feel a sense of community and to create unity. We have one voice, and it is a unique voice. The Dinah is the premium festival for our lesbian and lesbian-friendly voices to come together. We’ll be celebrating for five days, but on Sunday at 5 pm, we are joining with NCLR to make a huge statement of solidarity and activism. This is a great year to go to The Dinah. Our voices will be heard.

GO: Can you share some stories of things people have shared with you about what Dinah has meant to them?
MH: Our customers bring us heartwarming stories of how much Dinah has changed their lives. From the person who came out in the midwest and was shunned by her family who came to The Dinah and found community and acceptance and as a consequence, an empowered new voice to bring home; to the customer who is on leave from the military and just wants to feel connected to her community in a celebratory way; to the patient with a terminal illness fulfilling a bucket list item; to the 70-year-old who never experienced this type of freedom when she was younger, the Dinah represents living our lives out loud, proudly and with a strong sense of solidarity.

GO: What inspires you to keep throwing such a huge event every year after so many others have called it quits or closed their doors?
MH: I think of The Dinah both as a massive celebration of our lives for thousands and as a life saver for at least one. This year I am giving my staff each a packet of Lifesavers. They are all life savers. We change lives at The Dinah every year. We are a five-day lesbian pride festival. We offer community, celebration, pride, joy all weaved together in the soft fabric of Dinah community. Each staff member is personally charged with the responsibility of treating each customer like our only customer and with the certainty and profound conviction that this celebration is needed, and is not only life changing but, as well, life-saving to at least one. We treat each customer like royalty because we want everyone to feel the embrace, the support and the love that is The Dinah.

We speak to that one person whose life will have renewed hope after attending The Dinah. We see it every year and it brings all of us back. My staff is amazing and committed to my vision of changing lives, one Dinah at a time. It’s empowering for our customers but it’s also empowering for us. We have a lofty purpose producing The Dinah, and we work heart and soul to achieve our goal of creating the most magical, joyful celebration of our lives imaginable and giving that one life a renewed sense of hope.

GO: How has throwing the Dinah affected your life outside of the actual event?
MH: I’ve been a quiet activist most of my career. I’ve seen first hand how important it is to raise the collective esteem of our community and to demand our civil rights. I have worked to support causes that address our equality and civil rights. I was on the board of Equality California for years as a result of my work at The Dinah. I want to help make the world a better place for younger LGBTQ Americans, and I’m now seeing how that is also possible at The Dinah, to make a broader political statement. In this climate, we need to use all the influence we have to engage our community as I don’t believe this administration has our best interest at heart.

GO: What is the biggest misconception about Dinah? What is something you think doesn’t get talked about enough?
MH: How life changing it is. I hear reporters all the time say how they thought it was one wild party and had reservations about covering it and then found it to be this incredibly empowering experience to be around so many women for five days who’s common ground was celebrating lives and living out loud. Beyond the general party theme, the Dinah actually has a very profound meaning and a significant way of touching people. It’s powerful. 

L to R: Meredith Baxter, Mariah Hanson, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Lily Tomlin

GO: What are you most excited about for this year’s Dinah?
MH: We are raising the visibility of many young artists in our community. This year is all about building community and breaking barriers. Now more than ever, it is enormously important to celebrate and raise the visibility of women breaking glass ceilings, especially within our own community. Because we need to be reminded that we are strong, capable, united and powerful in a time when our voices, especially, spoken in unity, are needed more than ever before. We are working with women-owned company’s like Tello Films or Stuzo Clothing, to offer them the kind of exposure they may not find elsewhere. We are making a huge statement with NCLR about engaging politically now more than ever, to collectively say no to what appears to be a hateful administration.

GO: What does the future of Dinah look like?
MH: The future of Dinah looks very bright. We’re expecting a record Dinah, and we plan on delivering the most memorable Dinah in history. 

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